Melpomene's Magnum Opus

Column by tzo.

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It seems fairly easy to feel sorry for Edward Snowden, assuming he is in fact a well-meaning individual who was just doing his job and—seeing that the system was being abused to the detriment of others—bravely called it out and is subsequently being persecuted for his actions. One might—and many do—even venture to label him a hero.

But consider this contextual question: What if the FBI had previously come to your house and randomly confiscated some of your property and froze your bank accounts and held you for a couple of days of interrogation concerning things you had nothing to do with, doing so only because you were labeled a suspect due to "intelligence" gathered by CIA/NSA "legal" spying?

And let’s not forget, it is illegal to even mention that little visit from the federales, or else you will really see the hammer come down hard.

Then you read about Edward Snowden. Is he heroic to you? Do you feel sorry for him? No one can feel sorry for you, because you can't even mention to a single soul what has happened to you. Mr. Snowden was himself a cog, even if only a completely naive one, in the very system that persecuted you. Sure, he had all the best intentions, but ask yourself honestly: Would you feel sorry for him knowing that he had been part of the attack against you? Would you just figure that he and everyone else involved was, after all, Just Doing His Job? No illegal, no foul, yeah?

Let’s be very clear on one important matter here: His job was all about spying. If you had been labeled a suspect by the legal processes he followed, he would have willingly agreed to participate in the chain of events designed to invade your privacy as a means to give thugs with guns the legal right to aggress against you, and then he would have slept just fine at night.

So what should it be? Pity, praise, or anger? Tricky, no?

And so it goes in the Sick Society that breeds sick individuals. I don't use "sick" as a pejorative term here, merely descriptive. When cognitive dissonance is baked into human brains to the extent that they know something is always wrong but also is always right if certain people say it's right, and they are able to keep such doublethink partitions running in parallel and consider it normal, that is indeed a sickness or perhaps a physical disability.

Human beings set themselves apart from all other animals by their ability to extensively utilize rational thought. When an individual has this signature ability crippled by absorbing the Sick Society's indoctrinations, then it is the same as a tiger having a disease that rots its teeth out, or having a broken leg. In order to survive without its natural essential attributes, it will necessarily have to become dependent upon a caretaker, as it simply can no longer fend for itself. After that, the tiger need not worry about where his meat actually comes from, but just that it shows up.

So if the Sick Society creates individuals who cannot be expected to fend for themselves within the realm of human reason, perhaps we should take the focus off of any particular individual and instead hate on the system, not on the individuals who make up the system. So then the system is responsible, and not the individuals? But the system is individuals. Then no one is to blame, or everyone? Maybe some? That one guy over there?

Welcome to the paradoxical world of the Sick Society.

But here is a definitive statement that sidesteps all the ethical fuzziness that results from the Sick Society’s fuzzy ethics: All the pick-three-letter agencies like FBI, CIA, and NSA are unethical and need to go away. Period. Discussions about the “proper” interpretations and implementations of the protocols within such organizations are nothing more than a waste of time. Proper has nothing whatsoever in the world to do with them, and such discussions amount to “which is the least unethical route to take within this unethical system?” For the one-thousandth time: If the wrong questions are being asked, then the answers simply do not matter.

And it’s bad enough these Sick Society organizations attract sociopaths who look forward to persecuting people for fun and profit. Much, much worse is that they draw in good people and convince them they are doing good by participating in the violation of basic human rights.

Most people feel sorry for Edward Snowden, I think, because he was trying to act in accordance with the law, and there are some automatic associations that are commonly made, i.e., “following the law = good; breaking the law = bad." Personal conscience is welded to the law in the Sick Society, and if the laws are bad, then people feel bad breaking those bad laws. But as long as they and everyone else are following the bad laws, then it's all good.

Now that we have dipped back down from the systemic to the individual level once again, a question: Was Edward Snowden brave for what he did? Sure. Acting in good faith when you know there will be undesirable consequences is indeed an act of bravery. But Lordamighty, the mixing of bravery and bad information is surely a recipe for tragedy.

Don Quixote was unquestionably brave in his tilts against windmills, thinking he was protecting the populace from giants. And how mad could you get at him from your distant vantage point if this valiant man were to purposely ride his scraggly horse over the top of an innocent person because he believed her to be an evil princess? Even from a distance, his bravery can be appreciated, his mistakes understood, but his sanity? And look—to top it off, all the people surrounding this knight errant are actually urging him on, sharing in his delusion that the windmills are giants and that evil princesses run amok over the vast plains of the Campo de Montiel. Our hero!

What peculiar brand of daylight madness is this?

Perhaps we even eventually come to the realization that this particular Don Quixote is delusional because everyone around him made him so by teaching him from an early age that giants look like this and evil princesses look like that. Is he actually responsible for his actions? But if not, then who? There’s that pesky question again.

What exactly can one say to the actors in this Greek tragedy come to life, in an attempt to convince them that the play is not reality? That fantasy is not fact? That there are no giants and evil princesses, only harmless windmills and innocent little girls? That the bravery in this theatrical world is indeed real but completely wrongheaded and quite possibly horrifyingly destructive?

What if that “evil princess” turned out to be your daughter? And if not, here’s a simple fact: She was someone’s daughter, even if her parents lived in a distant land. Yes, they all count as human beings, just like you.

So how do you feel now, watching this grand performance unfold? Or are you one of the aforementioned actors who sees the audience as the ones who have lost touch with reality? After all, you do have the vast majority of society on your side up there onstage. How can they all be wrong?

Ah, pathos! All the World's Indeed a Stage, Bill, and you really have outdone yourself this time, Melpomene. I truly don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or wind my watch.

H. L. Mencken wrote up a critical review of this long-running tragicomedy almost a century ago, and it still holds up quite well today:

Try to imagine anything more heroically absurd! What grotesque false pretences! What a parade of obvious imbecilities! What a welter of fraud! But is fraud unamusing? Then I retire forthwith as a psychologist.

The fraud of democracy, I contend, is more amusing than any other—more amusing even, and by miles, than the fraud of religion. Go into your praying-chamber and give sober thought to any of the more characteristic democratic inventions: say, Law Enforcement. Or to any of the typical democratic prophets: say, the late Archangel Bryan. If you don't come out paled and palsied by mirth then you will not laugh on the Last Day itself, when Presbyterians step out of the grave like chicks from the egg, and wings blossom from their scapulae, and they leap into interstellar space with roars of joy.

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tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Jim Davies's picture

There's tragedy abundant that rational man has deteriorated to the extent of allowing to come into existence an outfit that employs the likes of Edward Snowden to spy on you and me. Yes.
But I don't see anything tragic about his departure from that employ. "Tricky" - no. "Pity, praise, or anger?" - Praise. I don't think he would want our pity, nor feel himself in need of it. Had his former work brought down his employers on my back, I'd feel anger - but against them and those continuing to work for them, not against him. He quit.
I hope Christians will forgive me for quoting their Scripture out of context: "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth..." (Luke 15:7.)

tzo's picture

The tragedy to me does not involve him leaving, but the frame that constrains most people's perception of that event. He is a hero or a traitor: Both conclusions give credence to the rules and existence of the NSA. Which brings us to your first paragraph above, so I think we do agree on what the tragedy entails.
Repenteth? I haven't followed details very closely, but has he resolved to never again work for the government, or was he simply an employee who saw something unethical at work (with the assumption that what he was doing was ethical), blew the whistle, and then left? That doesn't quite sound like repenting. If the FBI were to offer him a job tomorrow, you don't think he'd take it? People leave jobs, government jobs included, for a variety of reasons including being mistreated or not liking what was going on. Did even one mindset change on the day he quit? His or anyone else's?

mkghandi's picture

DHS, Department of Homeland Security, needs to be included with the agencies that should disappear. They are being used to blackmail everybody, including the government, so they are the enforcement and enabling arms of the shadow government. They even wear the clothes of the shadows--SECRECY.

Paul's picture

I mostly agree, but I guess I have a less critical view of humans. I see myself in Snowden's shoes except when I found myself in a Marine Corps that was doing evil, I just hunkered down until my enlistment was up. I didn't desert and go to Canada, so I was not as brave as he is (I might have if I'd been told to go to Viet Nam though).

All my heroes have feet of clay, except perhaps Marshall Fritz who I am convinced was an angel. There is plenty of blame to spread around, but it's also true that some individuals are more evil than others.